Ed’s view: Segregation and quotas

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One news story more than any other caused a major ruckus on the Catering Insight website last month, that of Foster responding to dealer demand for women-only training sessions.

Both men and women in the industry seemed to be offended by the move, with comments on the story itself and on Twitter ranging from complaints that Foster is living in the past, to sarcasm that the training would feature “simpler, less complicated words”, right up to full-blown accusations of discrimination.

As a proud feminist myself, I’d like to think I’m very hot on any news that could be considered to be discriminatory, and I’m not sure that is the case for Foster here.

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While I absolutely understand the industry’s concerns that separating the genders for training sessions could be seen as patronising towards women, clearly there was a demand for this and, judging by the photo provided with the original press release, quite a few female dealer staff turned up too.

So if there is ‘fault’ here, who is to blame – Foster, the dealers who asked for women-only training, or the industry at large for creating this need in the first place?

Frankly I’m inclined towards the latter. Can you really blame Foster for responding to requests from its dealer customers? I would argue that it is good practice to listen to and respond to feedback.

And for the dealer staff making these requests, again, can you really fault them for trying to feel more comfortable when wanting to learn vital information about the products they will be selling?

It says a lot about this industry that some women are not content in mixed training groups. Obviously we are in the vast minority in the sector, and while women are stereotypically said to be the most chatty gender, more often than not it is the men dominating discussions. It’s all very well telling women to ‘man up’ and take whatever is thrown at them, but it is tremendously difficult to break the prevailing attitude. And why should they have to work twice as hard as men to make the same point?

Even I, as a relatively mouthy individual, sometimes feel a little overwhelmed if I’m the only woman in a discussion. Many times men have talked over me or even directed answers to my questions towards my male colleagues, even when I am sitting right in front of them.

Maybe some companies may even want to think about introducing gender quotas to even up the representation in the industry. For those who think these would not work, a recent London School of Economics study found that quotas actually strengthen companies by leading to the displacement of mediocre men (sorry guys!).

But in the meantime it is incumbent upon us all in the catering equipment industry, no matter the gender, to be more considerate and inclusive. Then maybe there would be no more demand for female-only dealer training to complain about.

Tags : dealer trainingfeminismFoster Refrigeratortraining
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls


  1. ooh dear Clare – I’m afraid you ARE letting the side down. Until we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the men in this industry (and that includes on site, at shows and yes, training) then we’ll never be taken seriously – just as the weaker sex.

    I did wonder whether the training sessions shown were for office based telesales staff who DO tend to be female and yes I could understand them not wanting to be amongst a group of mouthy project/sales managers) but perhaps that should be investigated and clarified.

    I know of NO women, field based or who ask – or want – a female specific training course

  2. Well said Cathy, gender quotas?? Is Clare for real?? There is a massive shortage of catering engineers within the industry, it is a well paid job and lets face it even with technological advances it is, in my opinion, a job for life, so where are all the females?? I know to only 3 out of about 1600 men, there is a good ratio of men to women at British Gas and both are paid the same for the same hours worked so why so little interest in the catering field?

    1. Why yes, yes I am for real, Nick. And don’t take my word for it, take the very respected London School of Economics’ research as accurate:

      Personally I think the problem starts very young – girls are told they can’t do certain jobs, especially in the STEM subjects, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m glad to hear that British Gas has overcome this issue though, perhaps we should ask them how they did it?

  3. Hi Clare, many thanks for your reply, and no, i didn’t take your word for it, i checked out the article via the link you posted and it states:
    “While some claim targets for the inclusion of underrepresented groups lead to the promotion of individuals that do not deserve it, economists at the London School of Economics found that the reverse is true. Quotas can work to weed out incompetent men.”
    No actual evidence, just some p.c reporting by a liberal rag, this could have come straight out of the Guardian. No company, in this day and age is going to put up with incompetent staf, male or otherwise.
    With regards to STEM, check out the American enterprise Institute: or Ben Shapiro: or Karen Straughan:
    With regards to your comment “girls are told they can’t do certain jobs” you state that this is your personal view yet I can’t see how you can believe that, if at all you do. Girls achieve more academically and this is fact based and provable, this country, amongst others is so p.c that do you really believe that schools etc. would push this agenda?

    1. ‘Liberal rag’? Good to see you’re so open minded. There is evidence, from the LSE. A university, and a respected one at that.

      And as for the links you’ve posted, well you’re really exposed your true colours there – no gender wage gap? Are you the one for real? How about accepting government statistics on that one: That’s a 19.2% gap for all employees.

      Girls may not be told directly that they can’t do specific jobs, but if you ask children to name which are ‘girl jobs’ and ‘boy jobs’ there is a clear dividing line. They are encouraged in specific directions. When you have the time, I suggest you watch this BBC programme which is proving very interesting:

  4. Hi Clare, many thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree with you, my colours are well and truly nailed to the flag pole, I recruit on merit not on gender or any other p.c factor, I don’t need a policy forcing me down a particular path because some just out of uni sjw thinks it’s a good idea. One of the links I posted was about the gender pay gap, if you had taken the time to watch & listen then you’d come to the conclusion (yourself) that it’s a work of fiction. The link that you posted is from a government site, I thought that it was illegal for any company to pay the genders differently for the same work, doing the same job, working the same hours. The data is misleading as it does not break this down. Companies do have different contracts and different rates of pay for different roles, but if companies could get away with paying women less than men for the exact same work and the exact same hours then nobody would employ men, it’s basic economics. You mentioned STEM in a previous post, the link I provided, from a womens perspective, gives a different view to yours……………….I would imagine the patriarchy got to her. Final point, as we are both busy: “girls jobs” & “boys jobs”………………………’s to easy and it’s a Friday.!! & I never believe anything the BBC come out with.
    Have a good weekend.

    Kind Regards.

    1. Don’t you think it’s statistically very unlikely that the majority of people in the catering equipment industry/industry at large who just happen to have the merit to be employed are men? It’s a systemic bias and I welcome ‘PC’ factors as you call them to correct this imbalance.

      Indeed it is illegal to pay genders differently for the same work, but try proving that’s the case. Are you saying that government statistics are wrong? Nobody would employ men? What a joke! Talking of the BBC, did you see the gender pay gap row that they were involved in last month? It was irrefutable proof that women were paid less for doing exactly the same jobs. Oh but you don’t believe anything from the BBC, do you?

      I did actually look at all your links and I absolutley disagree. Some pretty skewed views of the situation if you ask me.

      Anyway, thanks for mansplaining womens’ equality issues to me, you certainly gave me something to think about. Have a good weekend too!

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